It’s 2019, and a famous person has overreacted on Twitter, sparking a social media maelstrom. But this time a young hunter from Kiln is caught in the crosshairs.
Hunter Waltman, 22, and the rare white turkey he bagged are the subject of a story by longtime Clarion Ledger outdoors reporter Brian Broom.
After it was posted online Monday, Waltman said there were “a lot of haters” saying he shouldn’t have killed such a rare bird.
The biggest hater so far, though, is political commentator and current ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Keith Olbermann.
“It be rare and beautiful so me should kill it,” Olbermann tweeted Tuesday morning with a link to the story. “This pea-brained scumbag identifies himself as Hunter Waltman and we should do our best to make sure the rest of his life is a living hell. And the nitwit clown who wrote this fawning piece should be fired.”
That kind of blind hatred for a stranger based on a trivial issue is unfortunately not rare for Twitter. But Olbermann’s encouragement of others to step in and enact retribution in perpetuity is a bit unusual for a celebrity.
ESPN issued a statement on the incident Wednesday afternoon: “‘We have spoken to him about not making personal attacks.”
Olbermann then tweeted an apology Wednesday evening, saying “I am an opponent of trophy hunting and remain so, but nobody should feel threatened. This was anything but my intent, so I unreservedly apologize to Mr. Waltman for this tweet.”
Waltman said he did not like being threatened, especially in such a public way. But when asked if he wanted to respond to the salvo, he simply said, “no.”
“I wish he would see hunting the way I see it, he might be a lot happier man,” Waltman said.
The 22-year-old grew up in Kiln fishing, hunting and playing baseball. He shot his first turkey at age 12.
Hunting is like a family get-together, he said.
“When we go hunting, we kill a lot of deer and whatever ... rabbits, turkeys ... and we eat usually them at Sunday dinners at Papa’s house,” he said.
The white turkey, though, is being taxidermied.
He first heard about the pale bird from a neighbor. Then, in the fall, he was walking around his new piece of property when he spotted a white turkey feather. He put up a wildlife camera and tracked it down as soon as turkey hunting season started.
“Any hunter’s gonna kill something like that if it walks out in front of them,” he said. “And plus, with that turkey being all white, it wouldn’t have lasted much longer.”
As an expert interviewed by Broom said, the turkey was most likely partially albino, a genetic deformity called leucism.
“I’m surprised it made it to about 3 or 4 years old, being so white,” and unable to camouflage from predators like a normal turkey, Waltman said.
He took photos with his prize and shared it to social media, thinking people might be as excited as he was. But then the negative comments started rolling in.
He doesn’t let it get to him, though. “Me, personally, I’m happy. I’m real excited and they ain’t gonna take that away from me.”
His tactic with the online haters hasn’t changed: Do not engage.
“I just let ‘em talk and just laugh at ‘em.”
That’s something 2019 could use more of, he agreed. “This world would be a lot better, I can promise you.”